Premier John Horgan. (Abby News photo)

Premier John Horgan. (Abby News photo)

B.C. Premier apologizes, says he misspoke on comments about drug addiction

B.C. set a new record of 175 overdose deaths in June

B.C.’s premier is apologizing for comments he made Thursday comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the province’s ongoing opioid crisis.

B.C. set a new record of 175 overdose deaths in June, surpassing the record just set in May and about 5,000 people have died since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016.

Advocates have questioned whether the opioid crisis has been overshadowed by the pandemic, despite occurring for longer and with a higher death toll.

Horgan told reporters Friday that he “mischaracterized” the challenges of addiction.

He says he knows addictions come from a place of despair and trauma and he regrets that while trying to get a point across about two completely different issues he spoke longer than he should have.

On Thursday, he told reporters that drug users initially make the choice to use and then they become dependent.

“That’s not my point of view. I mischaracterized the situation and I regret that very much.”

READ MORE: Nearly 6 people died from overdoses each day in June as B.C. sees continued spike

Health Minister Adrian Dix defended Horgan, saying the premier has been a staunch advocate for those struggling with addiction.

Horgan said Thursday that he supported Canada’s police chiefs suggestion that small amounts of drugs should be decriminalized. He said the federal government needed to get behind a national plan.

“If you’re addicted, you’re not a criminal,” Horgan said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has also called for the decriminalization of people who possess small amounts of drugs, said there are many reasons why people use drugs.

“Nobody grows up thinking ’I want to be addicted to substances, I want to have a substance use disorder, I want to have this controlling my life,’ ” she said.

The B.C. Liberal critic for mental health and addictions said the comments are some of the most upsetting she’s heard and called on Judy Darcy, the minister of mental health and addictions, to disavow them.

“If the minister won’t reject the premier’s suggestion that people suffering from addiction chose this path, then she shouldn’t be leading this important file that, frankly, should be of much greater priority for this government,” Jane Thornthwaite said in a news release.

Karen Ward, a longtime advocate and emergency response communications co-ordinator with the City of Vancouver said Horgan’s comments take several steps backwards in the understanding of substance use.

“People are aware that they’re not in the best place,” she said. “They’re just not doing great, they’ve run out of options.”

Ward says Horgan’s comments show he needs to engage more with the drug user community to better understand their situation.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

opioids

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Creston RCMP detachment. Photo: Aaron Hemens
Anti-mask sentiment, physical and sexual assault cases on the rise: Creston RCMP

Calls for service is expected to reach 3,600 by the end of the year, compared to 3,349 in 2019

Regional and local governments will eventually be required by the province to follow the BC Energy Step Code, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases from buildings. Some governments, now including the RDCK, have decided to phase it in voluntarily ahead of provincial deadlines. File photo
VIDEO: RDCK adopts Step 1 of provincial home energy efficiency plan

New buildings must comply with first level of the BC Energy Step Code

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Most Read